Giant Steps Wellness Park intended to raise mental health awareness

·2 min read
The Giant Steps Wellness Park officially opened in north-end Saint John on Saturday. (Gary Moore/CBC - image credit)
The Giant Steps Wellness Park officially opened in north-end Saint John on Saturday. (Gary Moore/CBC - image credit)

A Saint John, N.B., father whose daughter died by suicide two years ago said their family is honoured that a new wellness park in the city is partially dedicated to her memory.

Maddy Murphy was 21 when she died from injuries suffered in a suicide attempt in September 2019.

Her father, Mike, said the family is still grieving and he doesn't think they will ever get over the loss of a child.

"We're still at odds with everything," he said. "We're still in that grieving process."

Murphy was speaking to reporters Saturday morning at the official opening of the Giant Steps Wellness Park in the city's north end.

The park is intended to raise awareness of suicide while also providing a place of solitude and reflection.

Gary Moore/CBC
Gary Moore/CBC

There are two benches in the park — one dedicated to Maddy.

Murphy said he's honoured that his daughter is being remembered at the park, but wishes it wasn't a reality. "I'm very sad that we're in this place to begin with," he said.

Murphy believes that his daughter would be beaming knowing she has a bench in her memory.

"This would be right up her alley, that's for sure," he said.

The park was the vision of Gary Brown, a colleague of Mike Murphy.

When Brown heard about the death of his co-worker's daughter, he wanted to do something to help.

Gary Moore/CBC
Gary Moore/CBC

He said that prior to Maddy's death, he had never been impacted by suicide.

"I never really understood the extent of the problem here with mental health and suicide," he said.

Brown said the plan started with having a mural painted, but the idea evolved into a park.

After two years of designing, planning and building, Brown cut the ribbon in front of about a hundred people to officially open the park.

An eye-catching mural is the backdrop the corner lot on Somerset Street and Samuel Davis Drive.

Brown explained that the painting shows a person hunched over in distress with two hands reaching out to help — inspired by the concept of "hope."

Gary Moore/CBC
Gary Moore/CBC

On the grass, in front of the mural, is a large heart that's filled with white rocks.

On one side of the large heart is the bench dedicated to Maddy Murphy.

A second bench is on the other side of the heart which is dedicated to Carson Hoyt, who died by suicide in June.

Mike Murphy hopes this park will not only commemorate his daughter but bring awareness to mental health.

"Not notoriety, but to make sure that people are aware that it's an illness — it's out there."

If you are in crisis or know someone who is, here is where to get help:

CHIMO hotline: 1-800-667-5005 / http://www.chimohelpline.ca

Kids Help Phone: 1-800-668-6868, Live Chat counselling at www.kidshelpphone.ca

Canada Suicide Prevention Service: 1-833-456-4566

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